I moved to Rowlett 46 years ago. We moved in from Tyler. Moving in from out of town, we made the typical trips up North Central Expressway looking at homes. Finally, my wife said, “We aren’t gonna do this anymore.” A Dallas friend of mine’s father had an accounting business, and he had some clients in Rowlett. As a child, my friend used to go with his dad sometimes when he visited Rowlett, so he knew the Rowlett area. He drove me out to Rowlett only one time and I bought a house. The sign at the edge of town said Rowlett’s population was 1527 people. There were no stoplights…. anywhere. Lake Ray Hubbard was only about 2 years old, but it was the deciding factor. I just knew the future of the area was bright. In 46 years, its hardly changed. We are on a 23,000-acre lake and comprise a town of approximately 75,000 people that has 23 miles of shoreline, yet there is no public boat ramp except for Paddle Point Park. There is only one seafood restaurant on the water. Development of entertainment facilities are much the same as they were 46 years ago. However, that is not all Rowlett’s fault. The City of Dallas could have joint ventured several facilities with Rowlett, Rockwall, and Garland to help pay for the construction of the lake. Dallas opted not to do that. So, no points for VISION regarding Lake Ray Hubbard.
Initial planning for DART started many years ago and long before Rowlett’s contemporary leadership. I remember the controversy regarding the routing of the tollway. Canvassers used to stop at my house seeking a signature on a petition to run the tollway thru Rockwall instead of Rowlett. When I attempted to explain why such routing was not good for Rowlett nor the tollway, they became indignant. Routing the tollway north of Rowlett and south thru Rockwall would have taken the tollway too far away from the population that would use and pay for the tollway. No one is going to drive 5 miles out of the way to catch a tollway that they are going to have to pay to use. Running the tollway down thru Sachse and Rowlett made a lot more sense and was good for development in both towns. It also provided more revenue for the tollway. I cite this story to exemplify some of the “expert” advice that is often given by people that do not know what they’re talking about. In any event, all this planning was done before any current or recent past Rowlett leadership had anything to do with it. And……planning was not perfect. There should have been service roads on both sides of the tollway. The “Northshore” area created by the tollway is still pretty much dormant although the Rowlett 2020 study was adamant about zoning that has not worked. To hold out for commercial buildings that must pay employees a dollar an hour more to pay for getting to work, or fees for all incoming and outgoing freight has a serious effect on any company’s bottom line. Plus, there is a lot of vacant commercial land between Rowlett and the job markets at Northcentral and the tollway. Sachse is, as I expected, stealing the thunder from Rowlett with their new commercial development on the tollway. The highest and best use of Northshore land is upscale residential development to provide homes for the high earning executives that work at Northcentral and the tollway. Rowlett would add at least $350K per week to its tax base; perhaps more in this market. NO TAX ABATEMENT for residential. Rowlett leadership had little to do with getting the tollway. Those decisions were made by others. We just hope the opportunities presented by the tollway are not mishandled.
The story about DART is much the same as the tollway. Planning took place many years before contemporary Rowlett leadership was in place. I feel this was a great boon to Rowlett. It should help shape a desirable downtown area of Rowlett. However, I believe that all new downtown buildings should take on the look of 100 years ago. I think CHARM is the order of the day downtown. With restaurants, bars, apartments, shops, and perhaps condos, a particular market need is met. These are essentially young people that want to live in Rowlett but commute to good paying Dallas jobs. Therefore, DART. I used to work in the Bryan Tower building. There is a DART station right across the street. If I were young and single, I would not hesitate a minute to live in downtown Rowlett and take DART to work every day. I would be in small town America, on a 23,000-acre lake, with excellent motor transportation anywhere, plus DART for work. This picture is still being painted, but it seems to be stalled somewhat. Downtown development is seemingly lagging.
A more recent and perhaps the most spectacular addition to Rowlett’s assets is the addition of the Robertson Park/Bayside development. This addition is recent and involved current and near past Rowlett leadership. However, it damn near blew up on the launching pad. I fault the owners of the land, not Rowlett leadership for the screwup. After filing a lawsuit, it appears things have worked out. Development is underway, and it is excellent development. The apartments, homes, and park system on the north side of I-30 are top shelf. They are a credit to Rowlett. The development south of I-30 is still in the dirt moving stage, but the architect’s renderings present a showcase development. I do credit the current Rowlett leadership of correctly attacking the earlier development problems successfully. HOWEVER, AT NO TIME DID I HEAR ANY SUBSTANTIAL CONVERSATION ABOUT WHAT THIS DEVELOPMENT CONTRIBUTED TOWARD THE FUTURE OF ROWLETT. Vision was limited to this project alone. It was never a part of the formula to enhance Rowlett’s total. One plus one still equaled two. Even at this relatively late stage, no one suggested that the sum was equal to more than the parts. That is a lack of vision.
Recently, I have been invited into a group that is working on establishing a water trail throughout much of Rowlett. Some work was done on this concept several years ago by Texas Parks and Wildlife. However, it was never promoted. It kinda died on the vine before ever getting a good start. It is desirous to resurrect that water trail and incorporate it into a federal trail system. Some of this same system is already well along in planning along the Trinity River basin and tributaries. We would like to get involved. That, if done well, it would be a great attraction for Rowlett. The trail would accommodate shallow draft boats, such as kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, and two-man sailboats. Can you imagine the view when crossing any of the bridges serving Rowlett and seeing an abundance of such boats out on the water? To me it would be a delightful site.
VISION is combining all the above together into a single picture and promoting Rowlett as the best place in Dallas area to live. Good administration with perfect files and word salad won’t get you there.